The Nut Garden

לקוטים מזוהר (Gleanings of Zohar)

Tag: חוֹמֶר

Welter and Waste, Nothingness and Naught

“Rav Yehudah said that Rav said: Ten things were created the first day: heaven and earth, תֹּהוּ (tohu) and בֹּהוּ (bohu), light and darkness, wind and water, the quantity of day and the quantity of night. Heaven and earth, as is written, In the beginning Elohim created heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1). Tohu and bohu, as is written, And the earth then was tohu, welter, and bohu, waste (ibid., 2). Light and darkness: darkness, as is written, And darkness over the face of the deep (ibid.); light, as is written, And Elohim said, ‘Let there be light’ (ibid., 3). Wind and water, as is written: And Elohim’s breath hovering over the waters (ibid., 2). The quantity of day and the quantity of night, as is written, And it was evening and it was morning, first day (ibid., 5). It is taught: Tohu—a pale line, encompassing the whole world, from which darkness issued, as is said, He set darkness His hiding-place (Psalms 18:12). Bohu—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues, as is said, And He shall stretch over it the line of tohu, welter, and the weight-stones of bohu, waste (Isaiah 34:11)” (BT Ḥagigah 12a).

“There were four exiles [Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, see Vayiqra Rabbah 13:5], three corresponding to three shells of the nut. First: ‘תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter—a pale line [encompassing the whole world…]’ (BT Ḥagigah 12a)—pale shell of the nut. Second: ‘בֹּהוּ (Bohu), waste—these are the slimy stones’ (ibid.)—strong boulders from which Masters of Mishnah legislate various decrees. They cling to them for they yield waters of Torah; called ‘slimy stones from which water issues’ (ibid.). Third: The thick shell, a third exile which was short—darkness (Genesis 1:2). Fourth: A great abyss, which is the cavity of the nut: And darkness over the abyss (ibid.)” (Zohar 3:227a, Ra’aya Meheimna Ki Tetse, cf. Bereshit Rabbah 2:4–5).

For thus said YHWH, Creator of the heavens, He is the Elohim, Fashioner of earth and its Maker, He founded it. Not for תֹהוּ (tohu), nothing, did He create it, to dwell there He fashioned it (Isaiah 45:18).

“Out of tohu, nothing, He fashioned מַמָּשׁ (mamash), something, making what is not into what is” (Sefer Yetsirah §20 [MS S]).

“Rabbi Berekhiah said: It is written, And the earth was welter and waste (Genesis 1:2). Was—what does it mean? Welter, already was. What is תֹהוּ (tohu), welter? A thing הַמָתְּהֵא (hamatehe), bewildering, the sons of man, returning to waste. What is בֹהוּ (vohu), waste? A thing which possesses מַמָּשׁ (mamash), substance, as is written, [vohu]—בּוֹ הוּא (bo hu), it is in it [i.e., bohu clothes tohu, see Rabbi Avraham bar Ḥiyya, Hegyon ha-Nefesh, 2b]” (Bahir §2).

What is, One against the other ha-Elohim has set (Ecclesiastes 7:14)? He created בֹהוּ (vohu), waste (Genesis 1:2), and its place is in peace. He created תֹהוּ (tohu), welter (ibid.), and its place is in evil. Bohu is in peace, as is written, Who makes peace in His heights (Job 25:2). Teaching that Michael, the prince to the right of blessed Holy One, is water and hail. Gabriel, the prince to His left is fire. And the prince of peace holds the balance between them: Who makes peace in His heights. But how do we know it is bohu? Making and creating evil (Isaiah 45:7)—evil, is from tohu, and peace, is from bohu. He created tohu, and its place is in evil, as is written, making peace, and creating evil [on the association of matter with evil, cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, Introduction; 1:18; 3:8]” (Bahir §§11–12, cf. ibid., §163).

תֹּהוּ (Tohu), welter, from which the evil emanates that מְתָהֵה (metaheh), bewildering, the sons of man. And what is it? It is that of which is written: And YHWH’s fire came down and consumed the offering and the wood and the dirt, and the water that was in the trench it licked up (I Kings 18:38). It is also written For YHWH your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24)” (Bahir §135).

“A certain philosopher asked Rabban Gamaliel, saying: Your God was indeed a great artist but surely He found good materials which assisted Him. He said: What are they? תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (Tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:2), darkness, water, wind, and the deep. Woe to that man, of all of them creation is mentioned: Tohu and bohu: He fashions, light and creates darkness (Isaiah 45:7); water: Praise Him, utmost heavens, and the waters above the heavens (Psalms 148:4)—why? For He commanded, and they were created (ibid., 5); wind: He fashions the mountains and creates the wind (Amos 4:13); the depths: When there were no deeps I was spawned, when there were no wellsprings, heavy with water (Proverbs 8:24)” (Bereshit Rabbah 1:9).

One bull from the herd, one ram, one yearling ram for the burnt offering. [One goat for an offence offering] (Numbers 7:15–16)—you have here three kinds of burnt offerings, corresponding to heavens, earth, and sea….

Why three kinds for burnt offerings and one for an offence offering? Corresponding to four elements from which the blessed Holy One created the world, three of them being of a supernal [nature], one higher than the other, and the fourth the lowest, heaviest of them all [see Aristotle, Physics]. They are as follows: The earth is the heaviest of them all, and corresponding to it the goat was offered [cf. Leviticus 16:21]. Water is above earth; air, from which the wind is formed, is above earth, and fire is above air, for fire is lighter than all the others, rising up to the firmament. And a sign for the matter: When a flame escapes from the coal it flies upwards. And so [the Greeks] they say that fire surrounds the entire world above the firmament. Corresponding to fire, wind, and water, which are עֶלְיוֹנִים (elyonim), of a supernal [nature], three kinds of הָעוֹלָה (ha-olah), burnt offerings, were made” (Bemidbar Rabbah 14:12).

“Water from wind: He engraved and hewed in it תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (tohu va-vohu), welter and waste (Genesis 1:1), mud and muck (Isaiah 57:20). He engraved them like a sort of garden-bed. He erected them like a sort of wall, and he wove them like a sort of roof. And he poured out snow over them and it became dust, for it is said: To the snow He says: ‘Become earth’ (Job 37:6) [cf. Pirqei de-Rabbi Eli’ezer 3]. ‘Tohu—a pale line, encompassing the whole world…. Bohu—these are the slimy stones sunk in the abyss, from which water issues’ (JT Ḥagigah 77c; BT Ḥagigah 12a)” (Sefer Yetsirah §13 [A]).

“Know that the Creator (may He be blessed) created the human being; He created him in image and form, arraying him from four distinct substances—from fire, air, water, and earth, as is said: The earth was chaos and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and the wind of God (Genesis 1:2). These are the four substances previously mentioned. As is said: There is a place among the coastal towns where they call fire תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos—this is the first element; וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ (va-vohu va-ḥoshekh), void and darkness—they are water and earth. How do we know that darkness implies earth? As is said: its name is covered with darkness (Ecclesiastes 6:4), and they have explained that this refers to a clod of earth; and רוּחַ (ruaḥ), wind, is air itself” (Zohar Ḥadash 6d).

The earth was תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ (Tohu va-vohu), chaos and void (Genesis 1:2). Was, precisely, previously. Snow in water. Through the potency of snow in water emerged slime. Blazing fire struck it, refuse came to be, and תֹּהוּ (tohu), chaos, was produced—abode of slime, nest of refuse. וָבֹהוּ (Va-vohu), And void—sifting sifted from refuse, settling upon it. חֹשֶׁךְ (Ḥoshekh), Darkness (ibid.)—mystery of blazing fire. That darkness covers tohu, over the refuse, and thereby it is empowered.

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים (Ve-ruaḥ Elohim), And a wind of God (ibid.)—רוּחַ קוּדְשָׁא (Ruaḥ Qudsha), Holy Spirit, emerging from the living God, hovering over the face of the waters (ibid.). Once this wind blew, one fine film clarified from that refuse, like filthy froth flying off, clarified, refined again and again, till that filth is left lacking any filth at all. So was tohu clarified and refined, from it emerging a great, mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks (1 Kings 19:11), the one seen by Elijah. Bohu was clarified and refined, from it emerging an earthquake, as is written: After the wind—an earthquake (ibid.). Darkness clarified, embracing fire within its mystery, as is written: After the earthquake—fire (ibid., 12). Wind clarified, and embraced in its mystery was the sound of sheer silence (ibid.)

תֹּהוּ (Tohu)—a colorless, formless realm, not embraced by the mystery of form. Now within form—as one contemplates it, no form at all. Everything has a garment in which to be clothed, except for this: though appearing upon it, it does not exist at all, never did.

בֹּהוּ (Bohu)—this has shape and form: stones sunk within the shell of tohu, emerging from the shell in which they are sunk, conveying benefit to the world. Through the form of a garment they convey benefit from above to below, ascending from below to above. So they are hollow and moist, suspended in the air—sometimes suspended in the air, sometimes concealed on a cloudy day [cf. BT Ta’anit 8b], generating water from the abyss to nourish tohu, for then frivolity and folly prevail as tohu spreads through the world…” (Zohar 1:16a).

Your wonder known in the darkness, Your bounty in the land of נְשִׁיָּה (neshiyyah), oblivion (Psalms 88:13).

“תֹּהוּ (Tohu), Chaos—this is נְשִׁיָּה (Neshiyyah), because no image at all can be seen within it, so that אִתְנְשֵׁי (itneshei), it is forgotten, entirely; so it is called Neshiyyah, Oblivion. בֹהוּ (Vohu), Void—this is אַרְקָא (Arqa), Earth, a site not forgotten” (Zohar 1:40a, Heikhalot Be-Reshit).

“בֶּן מְנַשֶּׁה (Ben menasheh), son of Manasseh (Numbers 27:1)—the Cause of Causes who is called מְנַשֶּׁה (menasheh), Forgetting. Why is the Cause of Causes called Forgetting? Because He is a place to which forgetting and נִשָׁיוֹן (nishayon), oblivion, pertain, as in the expression כִּי נַשַּׁנִי אֱלֹהִים (ki nashani Elohim), For God has made me forget (Genesis 41:51).

Why? Because concerning all the rungs and causes one should search for their reality from the depth of supernal Ḥokhmah. From there it is possible to understand one thing from another. However, concerning the Cause of Causes there are no sides anywhere to search, to probe; nothing can be known of Him; for He is hidden and concealed in the mystery of הַאַיִן וְהַאֶפֶס (ha-ayin ve-ha-efes), Nothingness and Naught.

Therefore forgetting pertains to Him, as regards comprehension of this place. So open your eyes and see this great and awesome mystery. Happy is he whose eyes shine from this mystery, in this world and the world that is coming” (Rabbi David ben Yehudah he-Ḥasid, Sefer Mar’ot Ha-Tsove’ot, 227:15–23, adapted from Matt, The Book of Mirrors, p. 21–22).

Body and Soul; The Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy by Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag (Ba’al ha-Sullam)

Ba'al ha-Sullam PortraitBody and Soul

Before I clarify this exalted matter, I must note that many apparently deem it impossible to clarify and bring closer to human understanding except by means of abstract philosophical concepts, as is usually the case with such investigations. However, since the day I discovered the wisdom of Kabbalah and dedicated myself to it, I have distanced myself from abstract philosophy and all its branches as far as the east is from the west. Everything I write is from a purely empirical perspective, in utter precision, and by means of simple recognition of practical things.

Although I will make mention of their words below, it is only to indicate the difference between what the human mind can imagine and what can be understood using Torah and prophecy, which are based on practical foundations, as I have shown in Mahutah shel Ḥokhmat ha-Qabbalah (The Nature of the Wisdom of Kabbalah).

I would also like to thoroughly clarify the terms “body” and “soul” as they truly are, since truth and a sound mind are one and the same. This is because the truth is available to anyone, but only by the spirit of the holy Torah, and by removing every distorted concept that has taken root among people. These are mostly taken from abstract methods from which the spirit of our holy Torah is far removed.

Three methods in the concept of “body” and “soul”

In general, we find that the methods which abound in the world concerning the concepts of body and soul can be gathered into three methods:

Faith

The method of faith argues that all that exists is spirit, or the soul. They believe that there are spiritual objects separated from one another by quality. They are called “souls of people,” and they exist independently, prior to clothing in a human body. Afterwards, when the body dies, death does not apply to it, since a spiritual object is a simple object. In their view, death is but a separation of the elements comprising the object.

This is possible with physical objects, comprised of several elements which death disintegrates but the spiritual soul, which is an utterly simple object, lacking any complexity, cannot be separated in any way, as this separation would annul its existence. Hence, the soul is eternal and exists forever.

The body, as they understand it, is like a garment over this immaterial object. The immaterial soul clothes in it and employs it to manifest its forces: the good qualities and every kind of concept. Also, it provides the body with life and motion and guards it from harm. Thus, the body itself is lifeless, motionless, and contains nothing but dead matter, as we see once the soul departs upon death, and all the signs of life that we see in human bodies are but manifestations of the soul’s powers.

Duality

Those who believe in duality think of the body as a discrete creation [i.e., Cartesian Dualism, see Descartes, Meditations]. Standing, living, nourishing, and safekeeping its existence with all that is required, it does not need any assistance from any immaterial substance.

Yet, the body is not considered man’s essence. Man’s essence is the perceiving soul, which is an immaterial substance, as in the view of the first method.

The difference between these two methods is only in the concept of the body. Following the extensive developments in physiology and psychology, they have found that providence has provided for all of life’s needs within the machine of the body itself. This, in their view, restricts the role of the soul’s function in the body only to concepts and virtues of the spiritual kind. Thus, while both methods believe in duality, they say that the soul is the reason for the body, meaning that the body is a result emanating from the soul.

Skepticism

The method of the skeptics acknowledges the material only. Proponents of this method completely deny the existence of any abstract immaterial substance within the body [i.e., “the ghost in the machine,” see Ryle, The Concept of Mind]. Evidently they have proven that man’s mind, too, is but a product of the body. They portray the body as an electric machine with wires that stretch from the body to the brain. It operates according to encounters with external stimuli which send sensations of pain or pleasure to the brain, and the brain instructs the organ what to do. Everything is conducted by “wires” and “cords” made for this purpose. They move the organ away from sources of pain and towards sources of pleasure. Thus, from external stimuli this [network of “wires” and “cords”] determines all of man’s thoughts.

Furthermore, cognition is only an impression of the internal physical functioning of the body. Our superiority over animals is that our brains developed to such an extent that all the body’s functions effect the brain which we then experience as שֶׂכֶל וְהִגָּיוֹן (sekhel ve-higgayon), cognition [the ability to embed our thoughts within other thoughts, see Corballis, The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization]. Thus, cognition is merely a consequence of accidents of the body.

In addition, there are proponents of the second method who completely agree with this method, but add the immaterial eternal substance to it, called “the soul that inheres within the machine of the body.” This soul is man’s essence, and the machine of the body is only its apparel. Thus, I have laid out in general terms all that human wisdom has thus far contrived with regard to concepts of body and soul.

The empirical meaning of “גוּף (guf), body,” and “נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), soul” according to our holy Torah

Now I shall explain this exalted matter according to our holy Torah, as our Sages have explained it to us. I have already written in several places that there is not a single word of our Sages, not even in the prophetic wisdom of Kabbalah, that relies on a theoretical basis. This is so because it is a known fact that man is naturally doubtful, and each conclusion that the human mind deems certain, it deems uncertain after some time. Hence, one doubles the efforts of his study and invents another inference and declares that as certain.

But if one is a genuine student [of human wisdom], he will walk in circles all his life, since yesterday’s certainty has become today’s uncertainty, and today’s certainty will be tomorrow’s uncertainty. Thus, it is impossible to determine any definite conclusions for more than a day.

The נִגְלֶה (nigleh), revealed, and the נִסתָר (nistar), concealed

The science of our time has come to understand this development and has determined that there is no absolute certainty in reality. Yet, our Sages arrived at this conclusion several thousand years earlier. Hence, concerning religious matters, they have guided and forbidden us to not only refrain from drawing any conclusions based on theory, but even prohibited us from being assisted by such theories, even by way of negotiation.

Our Sages divided the wisdom in two: revealed and concealed. The revealed part contains everything we know from our simple consciousness, as well as axioms built upon practical experience, as our Sages said, “A judge has only what his eyes see” (BT Sanhedrin 6b).

The concealed part contains all the knowledge we have heard from trusted people or have acquired by ourselves through general understanding and perception. However, we cannot sufficiently approach it so as to critique it with a sound mind, with straightforward understanding. And this is regarded as concealed, where we were advised to accept matters on simple faith. And with all that concerns religion, we have been strictly forbidden to even glance at matters that might motivate us to investigate and study them.

Yet, these names, “revealed” and “concealed,” are not permanent names, applying to a certain kind of knowledge, as the uneducated think. Rather, they apply only to human consciousness. Thus, one refers to all those concepts he has already discovered and has come to know through actual experience as “revealed,” and regards all the concepts that are yet to be recognized in this way as “concealed.”

Thus, throughout the generations, all people have these two divisions. The revealed part is permitted for study and research, as it relies on a true basis, and the concealed part is forbidden to even a shred of doubt, since one has no real basis there.

Employing human wisdom: permitted and forbidden

Hence, we who follow in the footsteps of our Sages are not permitted to employ human wisdom, except empirical knowledge, and in whose validity we have no doubt. Therefore, we cannot accept any religious principle from the above three methods. All the more so concerning concepts of “body” and “soul,” which are fundamental concepts and the subject of religion as a whole. We can only accept knowledge derived from the teaching of life itself, taken from experience which none can doubt.

Clearly, such a proof cannot be found in anything immaterial, but only in something material, set up for perception by the senses. Hence, we are permitted to use the third method [of the skeptics] to an extant. It engages only in matters of the body, in all those deductions that have been proven by experiments, and which no one doubts. The rest of the concepts, which combine the logic of their method and other methods, are forbidden to us. One who uses them breaches, Do not turn to the idols (Leviticus 19:4).

Yet, this third method is foreign and loathsome to the human spirit. There is hardly any truly educated person who is able to accept it, since according to them, man’s human form is erased and vanished. Man has been made into a machine that acts and goes about according to other forces. According to them, man has no free choice whatsoever, but is rather compelled by forces of nature, and all his actions are compulsory. Hence, man has no reward or punishment, since no judgment, punishment, or reward apply to one who has no free will.

Such a thing is utterly unthinkable, and not only for the religious, who believe in reward and punishment, since believing in His providence, that all the forces of nature are guided by Him, assures them that everything has a good and desirable cause. Yet, this method is even stranger in the eyes of the non-religious, who believe that everyone is given to the hands of a blind, mindless, and aimless nature. These intelligent ones are like toys in its hands, led astray, and who knows where? Hence, this method has become despised and unaccepted in the world.

But you should know that the method of those who conceive duality came only to correct this aforementioned error. For this reason, they have decided that the body, which is but a machine according to the third method, is not at all the authentic human. Man’s true essence is something altogether different—invisible and imperceptible to the senses. It is an immaterial substance, clothed and concealed within the body. This is man’s “self,” the “I.” The body and everything within it are considered possessions of that eternal and immaterial “I,” as they have written.

Yet, by their own admission, this method is lame, since they cannot explain how an immaterial substance, being the soul or the “self,” can move the body or decide anything concerning it. This is because following philosophical precision itself, the spiritual has no contact whatsoever with the physical. It has absolutely no impact on it, as they have written themselves.

The accusation against Maimonides

Yet, even without this question, their method would have been forbidden among Israel, as we have explained above. It is important to know that the entire accusation against Maimonides by the Sages of Israel, and the harsh judgment to burn his books, were not because they had any doubt of the righteousness and piety of Maimonides himself. Rather, it was only because he employed [Aristotelian] philosophy and metaphysics, which were at their peak at the time, as assistance in his books. Maimonides wished to save them from it, yet the Sages did not agree with him.

Needless to say, today our generation has already recognized that metaphysical philosophy contains no real content upon which it is worthwhile to spend one’s time. Hence, it is certainly forbidden for anyone to take any spices from their words.

The Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy

What is spirituality?

Philosophy has gone through a great deal of trouble to prove that the physical is the offspring of the metaphysical, and that the soul generates the body. Still, their words are unacceptable to the heart. Their primary mistake is their erroneous view of spirituality since they postulate that the metaphysical fathered the physical, which is certainly a lie.

For any parent must, somehow, resemble its child. This relation is the path and route by which its offspring emanates. In addition, every agent must have some agency by which to reach it. Since they say that spirituality is denied any physical occurrence, then such a path does not exist, nor any means by which the spiritual can contact and set it into motion.

However, understanding the meaning of the word רוּחָנִיוּת (ruḥaniut), “spirituality,” has nothing to do with philosophy. This is because how can they discuss something that they have never seen or felt? What does their foundation stand on?

If there is any definition that can tell the spiritual from the physical it belongs only to those who have attained a spiritual thing and sensed it and these are the authentic kabbalists. Thus, it is the wisdom of Kabbalah that we need.

Philosophy with regard to His essence

Philosophy loves to occupy itself with His essence and prove which laws do not apply to Him. However, Kabbalah has no dealings with this whatsoever, for how can the unattainable and imperceptible be defined? Indeed, a negative definition is just as relevant as a positive definition. For if you see an object from a distance and apprehend its negatives, meaning all that it is not, that, too, is considered seeing or some degree of apprehension. If an object is truly out of sight even its negative qualities are not apparent.

For example, if we perceive a black image from a distance, but can still determine that it is neither human nor bird, this is considered vision. If it be farther still, we would be unable to determine that it is not human.

This is the cause of their confusion and irrelevance. Philosophy prides itself on understanding all the negatives about His essence [see Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:58]. However, here the sages of Kabbalah put their hand to their mouth, and do not give Him even a simple name, for we do not define by name or word that which we do not attain [cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason]. That is because a word designates some degree of attainment. However, kabbalists do speak a great deal about His illumination in reality, meaning all those illuminations they have actually attained, as legitimate as tangible attainment (in my opinion, philosophy has generally worn a mantle that it does not own, for it has stolen definitions from the wisdom of Kabbalah, and made delicacies with human understanding. Had it not been for that, they would never have conjured such fabrications).

The spiritual is a force without a body

That is what kabbalists define as “spirituality” and that is what they talk about. It has no form, space, time or any physical value. However, it is only a potential force, meaning a force that is not clothed in a material body, but rather a force without a body.

A spiritual vessel is called a force

Here we must note that in spirituality the concept of a force does not refer to the light itself. Since this light is immaterial it emanates directly from His essence, blessed be He, and if so is the same as His essence. This means that we have no perception or attainment of this light that we can define by name. Even the word, אוֹר (or), “light,” is borrowed and is not [actually] true. Thus, we must know that the word כֹּחַ (koa), “force,” without a body, refers specifically to an כְּלִי רוּחָנִי (keli ruḥani), “immaterial vessel.”

Lights and vessels

Therefore, we must not inquire how the sages of the Kabbalah, which fill the entire wisdom with their insights, differentiate between the various lights. Since these observations do not refer to the lights themselves, but to the impression of the vessel, being the aforementioned force, which is affected by its encounter with the light.

Vessels and lights

Here we must add the distinction between the gift and the love that it engenders. The lights, meaning the impression on the vessel, which is detectable, is called צוּרָה וְחוֹמֶר (tsurah ve-ḥomer), “form and matter” together. The impression, she is the form and the aforementioned force, he is the matter.

However, the love that is engendered is considered צוּרָה בְּלִי חוֹמֶר (tsurah beli ḥomer), “form without matter.” In other words, if we strip the love from a gift, as though it was never clothed in any gift, but only in the abstract designation, “love of the blessed Holy One,” then it is regarded as form and it belongs to the formative Kabbalah [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 1:68]. However, unlike formative philosophy it still concerns what is real since the spirit of love remains in the attainment, completely abstracted from the gift, which is the light itself.

Matter and form in Kabbalah

The reason is that although love is merely a result of the gift, it is still far more important than the gift itself. It is like a great king who gives something insignificant to someone. Although the gift itself is worthless, the love and attention of the king make it priceless and precious. Thus, it is completely abstracted from the matter—the light and the gift—so that the whole affair remains engraved only in the attainment of love itself, while the gift is forgotten from the heart. Therefore, this aspect of the wisdom is called חָכְמַת הַקְבָלָה הַצוּרָתִית (ḥakhmat ha-qabbalah ha-tsuratit), the formative wisdom of Kabbalah, and it is the most important part of the wisdom.

אבי״ע (ABiYA)

This love consists of four parts, similar to human love: when we first receive a gift, we do not call the giver of the gift one who loves us, all the more so if the giver of the gift is important and the receiver is not equal to him.

However, the persistence of many gifts will make even the most important person seem like a true and equal lover, since the law of love does not exist between great and small, as two true lovers must feel equal.

Thus, you may gauge four rungs of love. The act is called עֲשִׂיָה (assiyah), Actualization, the repetition of gift giving is called יְצִירָה (yetsirah), Formation, and the appearance of the love itself is called בְּרִיאָה (beri’ah), Creation.

It is here that the study of the formative wisdom of Kabbalah begins, for it is with this rung that love is abstracted from the gifts. This is the meaning of [I fashion light,and create darkness (Isaiah 45:7), meaning the light is removed from Yetsirah and the love remains without light, without its gifts.

Then comes אֲצִילוּת (atsilut), Emanation. After one has tasted and entirely stripped form from matter, as is written, and create darkness, he becomes worthy of ascending to the rung of Atsilut, where form clothes matter once more, meaning light and love together.

The origin of the soul

Everything spiritual is perceived as a separate force from the body because it has no physical form. However, due to this, it remains isolated and completely separate from the physical. If so, how can it set anything material in motion, much less generate anything physical, when it has no means of coming in contact with the physical?

The acidic element

However, the truth is that the force itself is actually considered matter as well, just as any physical matter in the material world, and the fact that it has no form that the human senses can perceive does not reduce the importance of the substance, which is the “force.”

For example, take a molecule of oxygen, which most substances in the world are composed of. Yet, if you have a bottle with pure oxygen you will find that it seems as though the bottle is totally empty, and you are unable to discern anything of it, as intangible air invisible to the eye.

If we remove the lid and smell it, we find no scent; if we taste it, we find no flavor; and if we put it on a scale, it will not weigh more than the empty bottle. The same applies to hydrogen, which is tasteless, odorless, and weightless too.

However, when putting these two elements together, they immediately become a liquid—drinking water that possesses both taste and weight. If we put the water in active lime, immediately it mixes with it and becomes as solid as the lime itself.

Thus, the elements, oxygen and hydrogen, in which there is no tangibility whatsoever, become a solid. Therefore, how can we define forces of nature as not being material substance just because they are not arranged in such a way that our senses can perceive them? Moreover, we can evidently see that most of the tangible materials in our world originally consist of the element of oxygen, which the human senses cannot sense and perceive!

Moreover, even in material reality, solid and liquid, which we perceive vividly in our world, can turn to smoke or vapor at a certain temperature. Likewise, vapors may turn to solids when the temperature drops.

And if so, one wonders how does something give that which it does not possess? For we have clearly seen that all material forms are derived from elements that are in and of themselves intangible, and do not exist as material in and of themselves. Likewise, all the fixed pictures that we know and use to define materials are inconsistent and do not exist in their own right. Rather, they only clothe and unclothe in forms under the influence of conditions such as heat or cold.

However, the essence of material substance is the force in it, though we are not yet able to tell these forces apart, as with chemical elements. Perhaps in the future they will be discovered in their pure form, as we have only recently discovered the chemical elements.

Equal force in spiritual and physical

In a word: all the names that we ascribe substances are imagined, that is they come from our five senses. They do not exist in and of themselves. On the other hand, any definition we ascribe to the force which abstracts it from the material, is also imagined. Even when science reaches its pinnacle, we still must regard only material reality. This means that any physical action we sense, we must perceive its agent which is also material, like the action itself. There is a correlation between them, or they would not have come to it.

We must realize that this erroneous separating of the agent from the agency originates in formative philosophy, which insisted on proving that a spiritual action causes a physical action. This resulted in mistaken conclusions such as the above, which Kabbalah has no need for.

Body and soul of the supernals

The opinion of the Kabbalah on this matter is crystal clear, without any admixture of philosophy. Since in the minds of the kabbalists, even spiritual, abstract, conceptual entities, which philosophy denies having any material reality and portrays as purely conceptual substance, although they are indeed spiritual, sublime and abstract, they still consist of a body and soul, just like the physical human being.

Therefore, you need not wonder how two can win the prize and say that they are complex. Furthermore, philosophy believes that anything complex will eventually disintegrate and decompose, meaning die. Thus, how can one declare that they are both complex and eternal?

Lights and vessels

Indeed, their thoughts are not our thoughts, for the way of the sages of the Kabbalah is one of discovering actual proof of attainment, making its intellectual refutation impossible. However, let me make these matters clear for everyone’s understanding.

First, we must know that the difference between lights and vessels is understood immediately with the first emanated being from Ein Sof. Naturally, the first emanation is also the most complete and purer than everything which follows it. It is certain that it receives this pleasantness and wholeness from His essence, which wishes to grant it every pleasantness and pleasure.

It is known that the degree of the pleasure is essentially the desire to receive it. That is because what we most want to receive feels the most pleasurable. Because of this, we should discern two aspects in this first emanation: the desire to receive the essence and the received essence itself.

We should also know that the desire to receive is what we perceive as the “body” of the emanated, meaning its primary essence, being the vessel to receive His goodness. The second is the essence of the good that is received, His light, which is eternally emanated to the emanation.

It follows that we necessarily distinguish two aspects that clothe one another even in the most sublime spiritual that the heart can conceive. It is the opposite of the opinion of philosophy, which postulates that abstract entities are not complex materials. It is necessary that that desire to receive which necessarily exists in the emanated—for without it there would be no pleasure but rather coercion, and no sensation of pleasure—is absent in His essence. This is the reason for the name הַנֶאֱצָל (ha-ne’etsal), “the emanated,” since it is no longer His essence, for from whom would He receive?

However, the bounty that it receives is necessarily a part of His essence, for here there need not be any innovation. Thus, we see the great difference between the generated body and the received abundance, which is deemed His essence.

How can spiritual generate physical?

It is seemingly difficult to understand how the spiritual can generate and emanate anything material. This question is an ancient philosophical problem for which much ink has been spilt attempting to resolve.

The truth is that this question is a difficult one only if one follows their method. That is because they have defined spirituality without a connection to anything material [i.e., metaphysics]. That produces a difficult question: how can the spiritual lead to or generate anything material?

But it is the view of the sages of the Kabbalah that this is not difficult at all, for their terms are the complete opposite to those of philosophers. They maintain that any spiritual quality equalizes with the physical quality like two drops in a pond. Thus, the relationships are of the utmost affinity and there is no separation between them, except in the substance: the spiritual consists of a spiritual substance and the physical consists of a physical substance.

However, all the qualities in spiritual materials abide in physical materials too, as explained in the article Mahuta shel Ḥokhmat ha-Qabbalah (The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah).

The old philosophy presents three opinions as obstacles before my explanation: The first is their deciding that the power of the human intellect is the eternal soul, man’s essence [cf. Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, 3:27]. The second is their conjecture that the body is a product of the soul. The third is their saying that spiritual entities are simple and not complex.

Materialistic Psychology

Not only is it the wrong place to argue with them about their speculations, but also the time of supporters of such views has already passed and their authority revoked. We should also thank the experts of materialistic psychology for that, which built its foundation on the ruin of the former, winning the public’s favor. Now everyone admits to the irrelevance of philosophy, for it is not built on solid foundations [materialist psychologists generally agree that consciousness (the mind) is the function of the brain. Mental processes can be identified with purely physical processes in the central nervous system, and that human beings are just complicated physiological organisms, see Ryle, The Concept of Mind. Some identify Rabbi Ashlag’s “materialistic psychology” with Freudian theory, see Garb, Yearnings of the Soul, p. 109].

This old method became a stumbling block and a deadly thorn to the sages of Kabbalah because where they should have subdued themselves before the sages of Kabbalah, and assumed restraint and skepticism, holiness, and purity before the Sages revealed to them even the tiniest thing in spirituality, they easily received what they had wanted from formative philosophy. Without payment or price, they watered them from their fountain of wisdom to satiation, and refrained from delving in the wisdom of Kabbalah until the wisdom has almost been forgotten from among Israel. Hence, we are grateful to materialistic psychology for handing it a deadly blow.

I am Solomon

The above is much like a legend that our Sages tell: Asmodeus drove King Solomon four hundred parsas from Jerusalem and left Him with no money and means of sustenance. Then he sat in King Solomon’s throne while the king was begging at door ways. Every place he went, he said: “I am Qohelet!” but none believed him. And so he went from town to town declaring, “I am Solomon!” But when he came to the Sanhedrin they said: “A fool does not utter the same foolishness all the time, saying, ‘I was once a king’” [see JT Sanhedrin 2:6; Pesiqta de-Rav Kahane (Buber), 169a; Tanḥuma (Buber), 3:55; Qohelet Rabbah 2:2]. 

It seems as though the name is not the essence of a person, but rather the owner of the name is [cf. BT Berakhot 7b; Bahir §80–§81; Zohar 1:60a; 2:179b]. Therefore, how can a wise man such as Solomon not be recognized if he is indeed the owner of the name? Moreover, it is the person that dignifies the name and he should display his wisdom!

Three preventions

There are three reasons that prevent us from knowing the owner of a name: Because of its profundity, the wisdom becomes clear only when all its details appear together. Therefore, before one knows the entire wisdom, it is impossible to see even a fraction of it. Thus, it is the publicity of its truth that we need, so as to have enough belief in it prior to making a great effort.

Just as Asmodeus, the demon, wore the clothes of King Solomon and inherited his throne, philosophy sat on the throne of Kabbalah with easier concepts to grasp, for a lie is quickly accepted. Therefore, there is a twofold difficulty here: first, the wisdom of truth is profound and arduous, while philosophy is false and easily grasped; and second, it is [considered] superfluous, because philosophy is quite satisfying.

As the demon claims that King Solomon is mad, philosophy mocks and dismisses Kabbalah. However, as long as wisdom is sublime, it is elevated above the people and separated from it. Because he was the wisest man, he was also higher than every man. Thus, the finest scholars could not understand him, except those friends, meaning the Sanhedrin, whom he taught his wisdom to every day for days and years. They are the ones who understood him and publicized his name in the entire world.

The reason for it is that minor wisdom is perceived in five minutes, and is thus attainable by anyone and can be easily publicized. However, a weighty concept will not be understood in less than several hours. It may even take days or years, depending on the intelligence. Accordingly, the greatest scholars will be understood only by a selected few in the generation, since profound concepts are founded on much prior knowledge.

It is therefore not surprising that the wisest of all men, who was exiled to a place where he was not known, could not demonstrate his wisdom or even show a hint of his wisdom before they believed that he was the owner of the name.

It is the same with the wisdom of Kabbalah in our time: the hardships and the exile that have come upon us have caused us to forget it (and if there are people who do engage in it, it is not in its favor, but rather harms it, for they did not receive it from a kabbalist sage). Hence, in this generation, it is like King Solomon in exile, declaring, “I am the wisdom, and all the flavors of religion and Torah are with me,” yet none believed it.

But this is perplexing, for if it is a genuine wisdom, can it not display itself like all other wisdoms? It cannot. As King Solomon could not display his wisdom to the scholars at the place of his exile and had to come to Jerusalem, the place of the Sanhedrin, who studied and knew King Solomon, and attested to the depth of his wisdom, so it is with the wisdom of Kabbalah: it requires great Sages who examine their hearts to study it for twenty or thirty years. Only then will they be able to attest for it.

And as King Solomon could not prevent Asmodeus from sitting on his throne, pretending to be him until he arrived in Jerusalem, sages of Kabbalah observe philosophic theology and complain that they have stolen the supernal shell of their wisdom, which Plato and his Greek predecessors had acquired while studying with the disciples of the prophets in the Land of Israel. They stole basic foundations of the wisdom of Israel and wore a mantle that is not theirs. To this day, philosophic theology sits on the throne of Kabbalah, being a slavegirl that is heir to her mistress (Proverbs 30:23).

And who would believe the sages of Kabbalah while others sit on their throne? It is as when they did not believe King Solomon in exile, for they knew him to be the demon Asmodeus sitting on his throne. As with King Solomon, it is hopeless that the truth be exposed, for the wisdom is deep and cannot be revealed by testimony or experimentation except to those believers that dedicate themselves to it with heart and soul.

Just as the Sanhedrin did not recognize King Solomon as long as the falsehood of Asmodeus was not apparent, Kabbalah cannot prove its true nature, and no revelations will suffice for the world to know it before the futility and falsehood of theological philosophy that has taken its throne becomes obvious.

Therefore, there was no such rescue for Israel as when materialistic psychology appeared and struck a lethal blow on the head of theological philosophy.

Now, every person who seeks the blessed Holy One must return Kabbalah to its throne and restore its former glory.